ELKHART —  Local seniors and their contributions to society earned the spotlight at the Council on Aging of Elkhart County’s fourth annual client picnic on Wednesday.

The event, at McNaughton Park, was the Council on Aging’s celebration of National Senior Citizens Day, organizers said.

More than 70 guests attended the annual festivity and were treated to lunch and live entertainment

“This day was created as a way to support, honor and show appreciation to our seniors and to recognize their achievements,” said David Toney, CEO of COA. “Their valuable contributions to our communities create a better place to live.”

Toney said Ruth Roberts, COA’s site coordinator, decided a couple of years back to combine the nonprofit’s annual picnic with National Senior Citizens Day to ensure that seniors are celebrated by their local community on a day that’s nationally observed.

“I think a lot of times in our society and life period, people forget about seniors just because they’re busy with their own lives,” Toney said. “And this is just a way to say thank you to them and to show that we do honor them.”

The Council on Aging is a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing resources together that enable seniors to live independently in their own homes as they age. The agency gathers every Wednesday and Thursday, often with speakers and games. In the past year, Toney said, each event has close to 60 people.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese spoke at the event and took questions from seniors. He also read a proclamation acknowledging the contributions of seniors.

Neese, who’s attended the annual event since its inception, praised the COA for the services it provides local seniors and said he looks forward to attending the picnic each year.

“There’s so much experience here–there’s a cross-section of all kinds of occupations in this one room,” Neese said of the event. “And I just think it’s important because of their contribution and it’s important that we have entities like the Council on Aging that allows seniors to stay in their homes and be contributing members of society.”

Many of the clients in attendance said the agency provides them with an opportunity to socialize and make friends with other seniors in the community that they wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Bert Troyer, 73, said he and his wife, Linda, joined COA a little over three years ago and said it’s helped expand their social circle drastically.

“We absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s just a great time for people to get out and meet and interact with new people. A lot of people we met are those that are widowed and living alone and this is a great opportunity for them to get out of the house and fellowship instead of staying at home alone.”

Another client, Lynn Joslin, 70, offered a similar sentiment. She joined the agency last year after moving to Elkhart from Mishawaka and said it’s a decision she doesn’t regret.

“Council on Aging treats us like we are really special,” she said. “The staff is great and making friends is easy because the atmosphere is very calm, peaceful and friendly. You can sit at a table with someone you’ve never met; they’re very open to being friends.”

For entertainment, the Council of Aging put on bingo and the Rockerettes, a local tap-dancing group for people over 60, who performed several dances.

This year’s sponsors included Brentwood, Heart to Heart Hospice, Eastlake Terrace, Greenleaf Health Campus, Hubbard Hill Living Wisdom Community, Elkhart Parks Department, Paragon Home Health Care, Elkhart Place, Valley View Health Care, Golden Living Center and Woodland Manor.

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